Tuesday, February 4, 2014

“If I had to name the biggest difference between Tanzania and the rest of the world, I could do it in one word, civility.” ― Linda Leaming

One of the reasons we love it here is that people here treat each other with respect and civility.  This is not to say there is no cruelty or hatred here, it is just that they are rare and usually deal with stolen cattle.  It is rare to hear raised voices, but, if you do, if you listen long enough—the rhetoric turns softer and softer and almost always ends in laughing the slapping and shaking of hands.  One of the reasons for this is that in this culture it is not considered polite to end conversations with bad feelings still existing between the participants.  It has happened to me, and it is a true blessing.  Far too often, we let disagreements over politics, religion, or other cultural matters foment hate and the dehumanizing of the other side.  This is not what Christ taught or lived, but from this side of the Atlantic, I can see how damaging it is to my home country.  I can remember a time when political opposites in Washington would disagree vehemently on the Senate or House floor but would later share a meal together.  There was a time when disagreement didn’t include hate or cruelty because we, as a nation, had gotten past it.  It is difficult to reconcile “love your enemies” “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” “love your neighbor as yourself” and “this is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you” with behavior that fosters hate and dehumanization.  It is said that Gandhi was once asked what he thought of Western Civilization.  He is said to have responded, “I think that that is a good idea.”  When I teach preaching here, I emphasize the love that Christ lived and commanded and not the harsh berating of those who do not live as we think they should.  There are far too many churches who do just that as a whole denomination.  The man my wife is touching in the picture at right has leprosy and is shunned, yet we gave him goats so he could live and Karen touched him to show him that he was also loved.  I feel very good about the direction of love and caring that the new Pope Francis is taking in leading the Catholic church.  I think God would be pleased.  I know God is pleased when you love even when you disagree.  It is good, too, to remember Carrie Fisher’s admonition that resentment and hate is like drinking poison yourself and then waiting for the other person to die.  We are better than that, and, if we can love, we are free.
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